|Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: March 10, 2015 by Harper Teen
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.
I was really looking forward to this book. In October I read my first Lauren Oliver book, Rooms, and loved it. I was excited to check out more of her books and when I saw that she was coming out with a YA Mystery/Thriller, a genre of books that I love, I couldn't wait to check it out. Unfortunately it wasn't quite what I was hoping for.
For me Vanishing Girls was a solid middle-of-the-road kind of read. There was nothing particularly bad about it but there was also nothing that really blew me away. I was expecting an intense and engaging mystery with some deeper themes and I got a thought-provoking read but not in the way I was expecting. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but some of it just didn't work for me.
Nothing articulates that point as much as my feelings on the characters. It was a surprisingly character-driven kind of novel, which was hard for me because I found it challenging to connect with the characters completely. I was looking forward to the story of two sisters who care deeply for one another despite their differences. That's not exactly what I got. I will say, I did find Nick and Dara's relationship and their feelings for one another to be incredibly realistic. I could completely sympathize with Nick and her feeling that her younger sister is the more pretty and popular one. At the same time I could also relate to Dara's feelings that she is outcast for being more rebellious, that she'll never be as perfect as her sister. I've been there. It made both main characters feel complex and authentic. But the lack of self-esteem also made both of them the kind of characters who are hard to like. I usually don't mind unlikable characters and it should have all worked here but something about it didn't, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I think perhaps it was just the way their story ended didn't leave me feeling very satisfied.
Another thing that didn't quite work for me was the pacing of the book. I usually count on mysteries and thrillers to be more action-packed and suspenseful and that wasn't the case with this book. Now I can forgive the slower pacing if it succeeded in making things suspenseful that what but in the case of Vanishing Girls it felt like filler. For instance, a moment mentioned in the synopsis didn't happen until halfway into the book. Most of the time I was just waiting for things to start kicking into gear.
But what I did enjoy about Vanishing Girls was Lauren Oliver's writing. In Rooms I was so impressed with the intricacies of her plotting and the beauty of her prose. Vanishing Girls was no exception to that. Her writing is so visual and engaging. You can completely see everything she is creating and it pulls you into the story. But her writing expertise extends to the plotting of the book. Yes I know I already mentioned how the mystery of the book didn't work for me but Lauren's writing was able to redeem things a lot as the book developed. It was the kind of story where little things along the way that seem unrelated end up being a big part to the final conclusion.
On the whole Vanishing Girls was a good read despite some parts that didn't work. It was short and engaging with some complex and thought-provoking themes that left me reeling, just not in the way I expected. Lauren's writing did a great job in redeeming a lackluster mystery but my inability to connect with the characters and a slow pacing made it only an okay read for me.
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you like contemporary novels that handle more serious issues, or you like mysteries with slow pacing then check this book out. If you are looking for a quick read then I suggest taking this one out from your local library.